No books in science class

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By Juanice Gray

jgray@natchitochestimes.com

Junior high students in parish schools are learning science – without the use of textbooks. Teachers are utilizing alternative styles of teaching, as well as hands-on activities, to teach the subject.

“With the never-ending changes that occur within education on a yearly basis, I can certainly understand where confusions about curriculum would be present,” said Director of Curriculum and Education Susan Horne. The State revised the science standards for grades K-12. “The La. State Science Standards require multiple resources to be utilized for the standards to be implemented with fidelity,” Horne said. She explained there are no Tier 1-rated curriculum programs and/or textbooks that align to the new standards. Horne said the district is waiting on the state department to provide guidance on this issue.

“In the meantime, we have developed a detailed transitional curriculum that is inclusive of supplemental resources. Further, our teachers are encouraged to continue with the use of our old Pearson Science textbooks; however, there may only be sections of the textbook that a teacher uses,” she said. The school district was proactive this summer in having teachers from across the parish come together to develop a transition plan.  “The situation is far more complicated than something as simple as ‘not having a textbook.’ Not only do we have to align instructional materials with new standards, but we also have to align assessments and teaching strategies with the new standards.” Fortunately, testing is in a transition year imposed by the new standards, therefore the spring 2018 science test will be taken in a “field test” format. “We are working side-by-side with the state department to provide our teachers and students with the most current resources available to teach science. Even more so, we have mostly third-eighth grade science professional development planned for our teachers this year, and our K-2 teachers are implementing their new science standards through the use of quality read-alouds that align to the new science standards,” Horne said.

“The three-tier strategy is the process the state goes through when recommending a textbook or curriculum program. The rating process begins with opening a bid process. This allows textbook publishing companies to submit their materials for a panel review. The next step requires a public panel of reviewers to analyze the program and to determine its alignment to standards and expectations for a given subject. The rubric for this process is a public document found on the Louisiana Believes website. A Tier 1 rating is the highest and Tier 3 is the lowest. Similar to the shifts seen in math, ELA and social studies, the trend on instructional materials in science is based on a collection of supplementary tools, and not one specific ‘book.’”

BESE member Tony Davis said the curriculum is a district level choice.